Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Republicans Sling Dirt Over Lawn Care At Washington Capitol

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Some Republican lawmakers are displeased by the plethora of dandelions and condition of the lawns on Washington's Capitol campus. They've proposed a bill to give lawmakers more oversight of upkeep on the campus.

Washington lawmakers are about to go into an overtime session because they can’t reach a budget deal. But Wednesday another issue briefly took center stage in the Republican-led Senate budget committee: dandelions.

?It was supposed to be a hearing on a proposal to give the legislature more say over how Washington’s Capitol Campus is managed. But it turned into a dressing down of the agency whose job it is to maintain the Capitol buildings and grounds. ??

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said he was “absolutely embarrassed” after a recent walk he took around the campus. ??

“I’ve never seen weeds in the Capitol lawns worse, a lack of mowing, I’ve never seen the bulbs planted less properly, mold growing off of our buildings,” Schoesler said. “I’ve never seen this campus look so bad in 25 years.” ??

After that, Republican senator after Republican senator piled on. ??

“In all the years I’ve been here I’ve never seen so many dandelions all over,” Sen. Mike Padden said. “Is it your policy not to treat dandelions?” ??

The Department of Enterprise Services responded that it’s been experimenting with more natural ways to care for the Capitol grounds. That includes an “ecolawn” pilot project and hand pulling of some weeds.

“If I bring my backpack spray over and spray the dandelions will I get in trouble with anyone?” Senator Jim Honeyford asked.??

That question was met with silence.

Sen. Randi Becker seemed to volunteer her husband and his lawnmower. ??

“I suggested that we all bring our riding lawnmowers from home as legislators and actually clean the place up, bring our spouses in,” she said. ??

A couple of Democrats also chimed in.

“If legislators want the dandelions gone, then we need to do something about it,” Sen. Christine Rolfes said. “You either pay for that or you get volunteers or we volunteer ourselves.” ??

For its part, Enterprise Services said it would have to check with the union on allowing volunteer labor. The agency also noted that the legislature cut its budget a few years back and now it only has 15 people to do grounds work on a 486-acre campus.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."